Noise Control
Photo: Russell Kaye
A stone wall along the property line is one way to lessen traffic noise. Here, a mason works to complete a 2½-foot-tall one at TOH TV's Carlisle house. Even a low wall affects noise coming from tires on the road.
It's a fact of life that older homes often sit close to the street—an advantage when they were built, providing better access for horse-drawn vehicles. But today, it can be less than ideal for homeowners who have to live with the sounds of the modern world rushing by at 50 miles per hour.

The winding two-lane road in front of This Old House's TV project house in Carlisle, Massachusetts, is hardly a superhighway, but it is a well-traveled commuter street. Fortunately, better insulation and sealing have made the renovated 1849 farmstead quieter on the inside. But the lawn and garden outside the house are still vulnerable to noise, from the hum of car tires on the road to the buzz of the neighbors' power mowers and trimmers.

For advice on how to keep intrusive sounds out of the landscape, This Old House turned to Eric Wood, an acoustical engineer from Acentech, a noise-reduction consulting firm in Boston. "As the population continues to grow, it is reasonable to expect noise pollution to increase, too," says Wood. But, he adds, we shouldn't compromise our quality of life and just try to live with it.

Hundreds of studies document the adverse effects of noise, from hearing loss caused by extremely loud sounds to generalized anxiety to sleeplessness. Here, Wood provides a closer look at the most common landscape noise-reducing solutions and offers a rundown of what works best.

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